But ELT is crooked and needs to change ASAP (in France, at least).
This afternoon, I had a 90 minutes conversation class with C., a 18 y/o that I have been tutoring for the past two years. We started at the end of her sophomore year (she was then an A1 level) and we continued during her junior and senior years. She is incredibly motivated and keen, and she is now in her first year of business school here in France. She passed the First last year (she scored 172!).
No, being A1 at 15 is not normal in France, when you are supposed to start learning English at 11 years old (at the very least, it’s now before 8 in general). But when you speak roughly 5 minutes a year, because you have 30 other students in the classroom and only 2 hours a week of English lessons, you can’t expect miracles.
She was irritated at first, which was very unusual coming from her. After a few minutes, she finally exploded: she was angry at her English teacher at school because all they were doing was TOEIC prep. Here she was, in an allegedly international business school, and all the school cared about was TOEIC. No conversation, no interaction, the students are behind screens and the teacher is being paid to sit on a chair. (I don’t blame the teacher here, let’s be clear. I blame the system.)
I have been teaching in France for two years now, as a private teacher. I refused to join the National Education system because it’s a freakin joke. Teachers are not considered, the people who are conceiving the syllabuses clearly never met a teenager and they have no idea of what school is like in the 21st century. In France, the National Education system is falling apart, but the real victims here are the students.
A year ago, the Prime Minister announced that every student should have an English degree by the time they graduate high school (TOEIC, TOEFL, First, IELTS, whatever…) My guess is that now every damn school will prepare for TOEIC, since it’s the most important English exam here. I really wonder why, because it’s not testing Speaking (so it’s cheaper?). IELTS or Cambridge Certificate are way better, and useful internationally, but no, TOEIC it is.
The thing is: these students are having only a few hours a week of English for years, in a crowded classroom (which is not very useful, let’s be honest), they barely talk, then they take a wonderful little MCQ test, and then it’s over. No wonder adults are now seeking for English training. Maybe it’s time for France to realize that English is a language, which must be SPOKEN.
Maybe it’s time to realize that it doesn’t matter to know by heart every damn irregular verb (it’s okay to make mistakes!) but it matters to be understandable while talking.
Maybe it’s time to realize that we cannot teach accents, but pronunciation (so they can be understandable!)
Maybe it’s time to change, period.